Fieldwork Day 1

Iquique, Wednesday, November 26

The first day of fieldwork for the Planetary Spherules Project 2008 went well – we had a small crowd of Renee French, who has just finished her undergraduate degree from UC Santa Cruz, Kelli Parsons, a second-year undergraduate Geoscience Major from the University of Iowa, myself (Ingrid Ukstins Peate), an assistant professor in Geoscience at the University of Iowa, and Aristides, our driver. The rest of the team, Nathalie Cabrol, Edmond Grin (both from NASA Ames and SETI), Guillermo Chong Diaz (University Catolica del Norte, Chile), and Jen Piatek (Central Connecticut State University), arrive in Iquique this evening and will join us in the field tomorrow.


Renee and Kelli are participating in fieldwork as part of our NASA-funded education and public outreach project, Young Women in Science. This project is designed to encourage women in the early stages of their education to pursue a career in science by providing them opportunities to do fieldwork, conduct research, and present their work at international meetings, all while being mentored by women scientists. It’s already interesting having them in the field together, because they have very different backgrounds – Renee has just finished her bachelor’s degree while Kelli is just starting out on hers. They provide a nice contrast to each other, and a good check for me, since I need to remember to explain the basic principles of the field geology we’re doing, like measuring strike and dip, mapping outcrops and sampling for geochemistry. We spent our first day studying the volcanic rocks to the east of our field area, where last year I had found deposits that looked like explosive volcanic material. I had a few questions I wanted to answer this year: Were these rocks from an explosive eruption? How large was this deposit? How did it relate to the geology of the rest of the field area? We confirmed that these rocks formed from explosive volcanic activity, mapped out the distribution and also studied the changes in texture of the unit over the field area. We saw some important outcrops that showed us how the different types of rocks were related to each other. We answered some key questions today that had been left unsolved from the last field season. It was good to start the project with some well-defined goals, and also good to have a very successful first day in the field solving accomplishing these goals. Let’s hope the rest of the PSP continues along the same successful path!